Militant Journalism

Boston residents unite to fight landlord greed

Liberation photo
Liberation photo

On October 5, over 50 Boston residents gathered for a rally and march to show solidarity with tenants in Dorchester who are fighting to remain in their homes. The residents of 6 Humphreys Place have been in a battle against landlord greed since they received no-fault eviction notices from Gabriel Lepe in February 2018. “It’s unjust, unfair,” said Tunde Kunnu, one of the residents of 6 Humphreys Place who led the recent protest. “And I think it’s criminal, in my own opinion, when you pay your rent on time and the landlord decides to kick you out without any notice – we just woke up one day and we found the sign on the lawn: This house is sold.”

Demonstrators began the rally outside of 6 Humphreys Place at 6:30 PM where they listened to the testimonies of residents who are fighting eviction. Before the group took to the streets, Steve Meacham of local housing non-profit City Life/Vida Urbana thanked the residents of 6 Humphreys Place for “lifting up the struggle another notch.” Following behind a banner that read “We will not be displaced,” participants marched from 6 Humphreys Place to the Strand Theatre in Dorchester’s Uphams Corner. Demonstrators chanted “Whose city? Our city!” and “Who are we fighting? Greedy landlords!” as organizers with City Life/Vida Urbana distributed flyers to residents walking down the street and driving by in cars. Drivers honked their horns in support of their fellow residents fighting to stay in their homes. The entire demonstration sustained an extremely lively and upbeat tenor with support from the brass band Unlawful Assembly.

“He takes our money, he didn’t fix nothing, and now he wants to kick us out”

The tenants of 6 Humphreys Place have faced constant pressure to leave their homes since Lepe sold the property to investor Gabriel McCarthy. Initially, the building housed 26 residents. Now only ten remain. Jean-Paul Doh, another resident of Humphreys Place, said, “The rest left. They scared them. They said if you don’t leave they’re going to bring the police, the constable is going to evict you. We said no, the police don’t have a legal right to kick anybody out.”

When Lepe initially filed the evictions in Boston Housing Court, he listed his tenants as “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” because he did not know their names. This is indicative of his neglectful behavior as a landlord. Dating back to before Lepe filed the evictions, residents have futilely asked him to address poor living conditions. According to Kunnu, “Nothing is fixed in there. We complain. The more you complain, the more he disappears.”

McCarthy, the new landlord, has been similarly distant. The tenants of 6 Humphreys Place say that after buying the property for about $850,000, McCarthy is looking to resell it for nearly twice the value. “The government should control that. Like rent control. It’s like abuse. They want to flip houses and make millions… That’s a crime,” said Doh.

Boston and beyond

The housing crisis in Boston is well-documented. There are over 40,000 people on the waiting lists for Section 8 and public housing, thousands of Boston residents experience homelessness each year, and many families have already been displaced due to rapidly rising rents. Working class people of color, like the residents of 6 Humphreys Place, have faced the brunt of the crisis. In the face of these problems, Boston continues to build more luxury apartments ever than before – many of which remain unoccupied.

While the residents of 6 Humphreys Place are on the front lines in the struggle against gentrification and displacement in Boston, they emphasized the national importance of this issue. Doh commented, “I see the greed. Everywhere in the country, they just want to sell, sell, sell. You’ve got to respect people. People who are living here, where are they to go? On the streets? It’s an unjust situation. If they continue to do that, five years, ten years from now, regular people like you, like me, cannot be around here.”

Building on his neighbor’s point, Kunnu said, “Landlords are greedy everywhere. And all these apartments are being built but they are not being inhabited. They give it to the rich people and the rich people don’t even live there! It’s like money laundering to them. That’s why we are fighting.”

Kunnu, Doh, and the other remaining residents at 6 Humphreys Place – in partnership with City Life/Vida Urbana, and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau – are using a number of tactics to halt their evictions. In addition to the recent protest, the tenants are challenging the evictions in court and circulating a petition. You can support their struggle by signing their petition here.

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